The Israeli government expects over half-a-billion dollars to be raised from Jewish communities around the world for the purpose of rehabilitating and developing the North. "Until now, about $300 million already have been raised by Jewish communities around the world and the sum is expected to grow to over NIS 500m. earmarked solely for the purpose of rehabilitating, strengthening, widening and developing Haifa and the North," said Shimon Peres, Vice Prime Minister and acting head of the special public committee task force coordinating activities for the initiation of business and investment projects in the North, which met Wednesday for the first time. At the meeting Jacky Matza, Tax Authority director, reported that, thus far, 14,000 war damage compensation claims had been received, from an expected total of 18,000, up from the 16,000 estimated earlier by the Tax Authority. Matza added that. just one week after the cease-fire, about 2,000 families already had received compensation funds. "I intend to instruct all the ministers to devote as much time as they can to touring the North of the country and holding meetings there to fully implement our resolution to make the rehabilitation of Haifa and the North a central goal of the State of Israel's national priorities for the near future," urged Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the meeting. Olmert added that surveys will be conducted and, on August 27, a detailed review of the deployment to defend the homefront in the immediate future and for the long-term will be heard, including the security system and civilian systems, to prepare the home front for various scenarios, which must be taken into account given the circumstances. Interior Minister Roni Bar-On emphasized the need for strengthening and developing the local authorities in the North for future events, who even before the war were in dire need. At the moment. about 600 public bomb shelters are undergoing an overhaul. On September 10, the government ministries are expected to present their proposals for the rehabilitation and development of the North. Separately, the Manufacturers Association of Israel said Wednesday that operations at 90 plastic and rubber factories in the North had returned to normal. Plastics and rubber exports are expected to increase by 7 percent this year over last year, reaching $1.85b. and matching estimates before the war. Sales to the domestic market are expected to rise by 3% over last year, reaching $1.6b. The Association estimated that this year 400 new employees would be hired in the sector, amounting to a total of 21,500 employees.